In-depth Q&A: How will the UK’s hydrogen strategy help achieve net-zero?

Specialists have actually alerted that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capacity expands.

The UKs new, long-awaited hydrogen method supplies more detail on how the government will support the development of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is essentially non-existent.

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might utilize up to a third of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page strategy and analyzes a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Company decisions around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have warned that the UK risks being left. Other European nations have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Its versatility suggests it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently experiences high costs and low effectiveness..

The plan also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to minimize reliance on natural gas.

In some applications, hydrogen will take on electrification and carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the finest means of decarbonisation.

In its new strategy, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as an essential part of its net-zero plan, and says it wants the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Today we have published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start a whole industry release the market to cut expenses increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital assistance 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

However, similar to the majority of the governments net-zero method documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this recently established market.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at essentially absolutely no.

The technique does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “familiar with a potential pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

The file consists of an exploration of how the UK will broaden production and develop a market for hydrogen based on domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in many sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation techniques launched earlier this year.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon spending plan effect assessment and the full variety is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to start slowly, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the technique.

Hydrogen is widely seen as a crucial element in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and lorry stock modifications.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of needs, stating that the government needs to “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some industry groups.

As the chart below programs, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then broaden significantly– taking up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

The new strategy largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has actually committed to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both varieties.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

The CCC has alerted that policies need to establish both green and blue options, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

The file does not do that and instead states it will offer “more information on our production method and twin track method by early 2022”.

The CCC has formerly defined “appropriate emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “a minimum of 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

The federal government has actually launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the technique, with a promise to “settle design components” of such standards by early 2022.

It has actually also released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at optimum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for calculating these emissions.

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can only be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

This opposition came to a head when a current research study caused headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

The former is essentially zero-carbon, however the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leakages from natural gas facilities and the fact that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not record 100% of emissions..

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, informs Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “most likely a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the green vs blue hydrogen argument”. He states:.

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen expenses launched together with the primary technique, reveals the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

At the heart of many discussions about low-carbon hydrogen production is whether the hydrogen is “green” or “blue”.

Quick (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers estimations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & with no sensible guidelines. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of worldwide warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government should “be alive to the risk of gas industry lobbying triggering it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

The figure listed below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows the effect of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

Environmental groups and numerous scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called … Read More.

In May, S&P Global Platts reported that Rita Wadey– hydrogen economy deputy director at the Department for Business, Energy & & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)– stated that, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the main aspect in market development”.

Supporting a range of projects will provide the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.


Contrast of rate quotes throughout different innovation types at central fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most affordable low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to government analysis included in the technique. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

The strategy keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

In the example chosen for the assessment, natural gas paths where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were omitted..

The CCC has actually formerly mentioned that the government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various routes to 2035” in its hydrogen technique.

How will hydrogen be used in different sectors of the economy?

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry “within a year”. Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be limited to “locations less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and supplying versatility to the power system.

This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the existing power sector.

However, in the real report, the federal government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are similarly likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. However, the method likewise includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to compete with electrical heatpump.. Government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends possible hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, at least in the brief term. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "dont add the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. " Stronger signals of intent might steer private and public investments into those locations which add most value. The government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". Protection of the report and federal government advertising products stressed that the governments plan would offer sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler automobiles. This follows the governments concentrate on electric cars and trucks, which lots of scientists consider as more efficient and economical technology. The federal government is more positive about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below suggests. The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy goods cars, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. " As the strategy confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Dedications made in the new technique consist of:. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the government to select its concerns thoroughly. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered leading concern. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for space and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already readily available ... those should be the focus.". Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures method may also supply some clearness. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? According to the federal governments press release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar property to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "really small" for private homes. These agreements are developed to get rid of the cost space in between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high risks for companies intending to enter the sector. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen business design to encourage private financial investment and an income mechanism to offer funding for business design. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production essential to meet our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". Now that its technique has been published, the government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year"." As the technique admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher expenses or public funds. The new hydrogen strategy validates that this company model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced together with the main strategy.